The Many–Storied Hare

Lewis's "large Hare of America:" First Discovery

Townsend's Rocky Mountain Hare Male & Female

White-tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus townsendii Bachman

19th-century scientific illustration of two Audubon-Bachman hares

The Academy of Natural Sciences, Ewell Sale Stewart Library

Drawn from Nature by J. J. Audubon, F.R.S.F.L.N. Lithograph Printed and Colored by J.T. Bowen, Philadelphia, 1842 from John James Audubon and others, Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. 3 Volumes, New York: J. J. Audubon, 1846-54. Vol. 1, Plate II.

The statement in Audubon's signature (above) that these figures were "drawn from nature" is somewhat misleading. The only way for Audubon to reproduce realistic physical details in a portrayal such as this one was to work from dead specimens as models. That accounts for the stilted, often inert poses of his subjects. It was Audubon's wide experience as a student of anatomy, which he expressed through his exceptional gifts as an artist, that resulted in his luminous images of both familiar and exotic creatures. And it was with the delicate nuances achievable through lithography that he and his assistants thrilled several generations of Americans with their sympathetic evocations of birds and mammals. Even after the turn of the 20th century, following the advent of long lenses, high-speed shutters, and fast color films that made wildlife photography easier, combined with the perfection of half-tone and four-color-process printing, the popular appeal of Audubon's lithographs remained virtually undiminished.

Captain Lewis wrote a long letter to President Jefferson from St. Louis on March 26, 1804, to accompany some slips of the Osage orange tree that Pierre Chouteau had given him. It was no doubt Chouteau also who told him that Indians considered the tree's fruit poisonous, but knew that many animals fed on it, including a large species of hare. In a footnote to his letter, Lewis related what he had heard about it:

From the discription of this anamal, it is in point of colour, figure, and habbits very much the same species with the European Hare, and is as large, if not larger than that anamal. This large hare of America, is found on the upper part of the Arkansas River, and in the country lying from thence South, and West, to the mountains which seperate us from New Mexico, it is said to be rema[r]kably fleet, and hard to be overtaken on horseback even in their open plains.1

It wasn't until six months later that Lewis got his first close look at that "large hare of America," when one of the Corps' ace hunters, Private John Shields, bagged the first specimen more than 1,100 miles (by Clark's estimate) up the Missouri River. Clark considered it "very pore"—thin, undernourished—and, perhaps after discussing it with Lewis, classified it as "clearly the mountain Hare of Europe."2 Of far more importance to Clark, however, was the pronghorn antelope he himself shot on that same date, the first any of the Corps had shot, and of which he immediately wrote his own brief account. Meanwhile Lewis devoted most of his own attention to his specimen of the lowly "hare of the prarie," as he called it, that Shields had brought him. To begin with, it balanced the steelyard at six and one-quarter pounds. He then proceeded to record its measurements with great pains and accuracy. The ear, for instance, was five and one-half inches long and three and one-eighth inches wide. Next he wrote as full a description as his observations to date would allow.

Although Lewis's pen was dry for weeks or months at a time during the expedition, his observational powers were never idle for long. At various times en route, and especially during the winter at Fort Clatsop, he wrote more or less detailed descriptions of plants and animals evidently based on numerous personal observations–not all of them written down, as far as we know now–as well as conversations with Indians. In lieu of the book on the expedition's natural science discoveries, which Lewis contemplated but never began,3 Nicholas Biddle haphazardly arranged Lewis's descriptions into seven categories: 33 plants; 2 domestic animals (horse and Indian dog); 36 wild animals; 56 terrestrial and aquatic birds; 11 fish; 5 shellfish plus the jellyfish and two seaweeds; and four reptiles. This was the legacy that Lewis and Clark left to the botanists and biologists who followed them into the West.

The western hare was 34th in Biddle's narrative on wild animals. He polished up the description Lewis drafted on February 26, 1806, at Fort Clatsop, quoting the original text almost verbatim, with only two elisions. (Paragraph breaks have been introduced here for easier reading.)

The hare on this [the west] side of the Rocky mountains inhabits the great plains of the Columbia. Eastward of those mountains they inhabit the plains of the Missouri. They weigh from 7 to 11 pounds. The eye is large and prominent; the pupil is of a deep sea-green, occupying one-third of the diameter of the eye; the iris is of a bright yellowish and silver color; the ears are placed far back and very near each other, which the animal can, with surprising ease and quickness, dilate and throw forward, or contract and hold upon his back, at pleasure.

The head, neck, back, shoulders, thighs, and outer part of the legs are of a lead color; the sides, as they approach the belly, become gradually more white; the belly, breast, and inner part of the legs and thighs are white, with a light shade of lead color; the tail is round and bluntly pointed, covered with white, soft, fine fur, not quite so long as on the other parts of the body; the body is covered with a deep, fine, soft, close fur.4

The colors here described are those which the animal assumes from the middle of April to the middle of November; the rest of the year he is pure white, except the black and reddish-brown of the ears, which never change. A few reddish-brown spots are sometimes intermixed with the white at this season on the head and the upper part of the neck and shoulders.

The body of the animal is smaller and longer, in proportion to its height, than the rabbit's; when he runs, he conveys his tail straight behind in the direction of his body; he appears to run and bound with surprising agility and ease [in Lewis's own words: "they appear to run with more ease and bound with greater agility than any animal I ever saw."]; he is extremely fleet, and never burrows or takes shelter in the ground when pursued.

His teeth are like those of the rabbit [cottontail or wood rabbit, Lepus sylvaticus], as is also his upper lip, which is divided as high as the nose. His food is grass and herbs; in winter he feeds much on the bark of several aromatic herbs growing on the plains.

Captain Lewis measured the leaps of this animal, and found them commonly from 18 to 21 feet. They are generally found separate, and are never seen to associate in greater numbers than two or three.5

By comparison, the eastern cottontail, Sylvilagus floridanus, which the explorers may have seen frequently along the lower Missouri River, is 12 to 16 inches in length, and weighs but two or three pounds.

White-tailed Jackrabbit

White-Tailed Jackrabbit sitting alert on a snowbank

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Poised for flight, wide-eyed and stock-still, this "large Hare of America" appears to be measuring the risk involved in sticking around, using its sensitive ears to evaluate the photographer's intentions. For the moment he (or she) relies mainly on one ear and nose. The large eyes situated on the sides of the head provide a wide panoramic view, but principally record only motion.

In spring, summer and fall a mountain hare is the color of dirt. This one is well into his seasonal molt, as steadily declining autumnal temperatures plus the diminishing span and intensity of daylight have triggered the seasonal variation of its pelage, or coat. At high latitudes where the snow cover lasts all winter, it becomes solid white. At Fort Mandan, where the Corps was billeted from late autumn of 1804 until early the following spring, Private Whitehouse remarked on January 3, 1805, "One of the hunters killed a beautiful white hare, which is common in this Country." This hare can complete its winter camouflage by laying those prominent ears flat against its back with the white sides up. Lewis described the ears' year-around coloration precisely in his journal entry of February 29, 1806:

the fold of the front of the ear is of a redish brown colour, the inner folds or those which lie together when the ears are thrown back, and which occupy 2/3rds of the width of the ears are of a pure white except the tips of the ears for about an inch.    the hinder [rear; reverse] folds or those which lie on the back are of a light grey.

Nicholas Biddle omitted these details from his paraphrase of Lewis's description, perhaps because they seemed trivial. He might not have skipped over them had he ever seen a jackrabbit himself.

Biddle also omitted Lewis's measurements, although such details were routinely included in official descriptions, and would have been of considerable interest to later naturalists. Lewis's figures were:

the measure of one which weighed ten lbs. was as follows. from the extremity of the hinder, to that of the fore feet when extended 3 F[eet]. length from nose to the extremity of the tail 2 F. 2 I[nches]. hight when standing erect 1 F. 3 I. girth of the body 1 F. 4 I. length of tail 6½ I. length of ear 5½ I. width of do ["ditto"—ear] 3-1/8 I.    from the hip to the extremity of toe of the hind foot 1 F. 4-º I.–

Lewis's dimensions apparently are the averages of several specimens, being slightly larger in a few details than those he recorded for the first one brought to him by John Shields two years before.


Science Overtakes the Hare

Lewis's "large hare of America" was elevated to scientific status by stages. Carl Linnaeus had established the genus Lepus in 1758, but Lewis's new species was first described officially by the naturalist Richard Harlan (1796-1843) in his Fauna Americana (1825). Harlan had access to Lewis's description but not to Clark's opinion, and regarded the species as merely a variety of the American Lepus virginianus, commonly known as the "varying hare" because of its protective annual molt between a gray-brown summer coat and a white one in winter. The Scottish naturalist Sir John Richardson (1787-1865) used Harlan's designation in his Fauna Boreali-americana, or, The Zoology of the Northern Parts of British America (1829). The first naturalist to classify it as a new and distinct species was John Bachman (1790-1874), the young American physician, naturalist, and co-author with John James Audubon of The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. Bachman first wrote of it in 1837 in an article for the Journal of the Philadelphia Academy.6 Two years later he renamed it L. townsendii (leh-puss town-sen-dee-eye), in recognition of John K. Townsend (1809-1851), who had provided the type specimen he acquired during his trip to the Northwest Coast with Nathaniel Wyeth in the mid-1830s.7

Jackrabbit, the common American name for Lepus townsendii appeared about the middle of the 19th century. Some etymologists figure it took root in the wild, so to speak, as the spontaneous exclamation of someone like a gold prospector. Struck by the hare's ears that were as oversized as the auricles of his own jackass, the name jackass-rabbit conveniently sprang to mind with a smile, and quickly boiled itself down into jackrabbit. The name is still unique to American speech, primarily in the West, even though it's a total misnomer. The long-eared bounder isn't a rabbit at all. A rabbit is altricial–born blind and hairless; a hare is precocial–born open-eyed and fur-clad. And a jack is a male donkey or burro (the female is a jenny), not a hare. From the human's perspective, a male jackrabbit is called a buck8; a female is called–without apology to the Family Cervidae–a doe.

Whatever we choose to call it, and notwithstanding the animal's utter indifference to our need to name it, Lewis's "large Hare of America," is the subject of more myths, legends, fables, tales, and outright lies, than perhaps any other mammal. As a body of lore and literature it all adds up to an annotated catalog of the creature's salient virtues: speed, timidity, fecundity, playfulness, and innocence.


Long before the dawn of human consciousness an image of a hare awaited discovery as the silhouette that bends to fit the pregnant crescent moon at the Spring equinox.9 Back in the time of the pagan feast of Oestre–Ishtar, Astarte, Esther, Easter–which celebrated the mysteries and miracles of fertility, rebirth, and hope, the hare and the egg melded into the familiar symbol of the season of newness, the Easter Bunny. Elsewhere in the sky is the constellation Lepus, a dim figure in the southern sky at the feet of Orion, immediately west of The Hunter's big dog, Canis Major (host of Sirius, the brightest star in the sky). In fact Lepus is so faint–so timid, one might say–that the brightest of its seven (or more) stellar objects is barely a glimmer of the third magnitude.

Beside the profound symbolism are the simple, mundane yet legendary facts of the hare's life—speed, hiding, and playful dance, all overshadowed by wide-eyed fear. The English poet John Clare (1793-1864), who was inspired by the works of James Thomson, lyricised in Hares at Play:

The birds are gone to bed the cows are still
& sheep lie panting on each old molehill
& underneath the willows grey-green bough
Like a toil a resting—lies the fallow plough
The timid hares throw daylight fears away
On the lane road to dust & dance & play
Then dabble in the grain by nought deterred
To lick the dew fall from the barleys beard
Then out they sturt [startle] again & again & round the hill
Like happy thoughts—dance—squat—& loiter stil
Till milking maidens in the early morn
Gingle their yokes & sturt them in the corn
Through well known beaten paths each nimbling hare
Sturts quick as fear–& seeks its hidden lair10

Hares generally are not a sociable animals, so Clare's use of the third-person-plural pronoun is merely a poetic artifice. Unlike rabbits, which live in groups that humans call warrens, hares live alone except during the breeding season when several bucks may gather to compete for a particular doe. Otherwise, they feed singly at dusk and again at dawn, or perhaps browse all night by moonlight. During daylight hours they retire to a "form" or nest-like depression in a willow or sagebrush thicket, there to remain motionless but sensibly alert in their "hidden lair," dropping into deep sleep for only about a minute per day. If they perceive a potential threat, they wait until the evil-doer approaches to within about 10 feet of their forms. At what hares somehow determine to be the last pre-doom instant, they gun their engines with a few brisk hind-leg hops, then pop the clutch and roar into cruising speed with hind feet reaching ahead of forefeet to initiate eratic leaps of various lengths and directions.

Naturalist John Townsend confirmed that a jackrabbit can even evade a bullet. "I have frequently surprised them in their forms," he wrote, "and shot them as they leaped away, but I found it necessary to be very expeditious and to pull trigger at a particular instant, or the game was off among the wormwood [sagebrush] and I never saw it again." Thus it is not surprising that the Corps of Discovery's hunters didn't see more of them. Another of the hare's evasive tactics is "hooking"–leaping sideways perhaps several times in succession to confound predators that track them by scent, or to disappoint an eagle in a determined dive.

White-tailed jackrabbits, like their black-tailed relatives of the Southwest, are, as Lewis phrased it in his pale expression, "extremely fleet." One authority states they have been clocked at nearly 37 miles per hour, and at top speed are capable of covering as much as almost 10 at a bound.11 Another claims that traveling in 12- to 20-foot leaps, the jackrabbit can maintain a speed of 35 mph, with spurts up to 45.12 A third asserts the animal covers the ground in leaps of up to 8 feet and reaches sustained speeds of roughly 35 to 44 mph.13 So how fast is "fleet"–34.17 mph 35? 37? 44? Back in St. Louis, Lewis had heard it was faster than the average horse, and Townsend said no ordinary dog could catch one.14 And the top speed is, what, 45 mph? 43.5 mph? And how long is its leap–8.2 feet, 12 to 20? Lewis measured one of the leaps of a jackrabbit he surprised on the plains at 21 feet, but hedged with the admission that "the ground was a little decending." From all this it appears that, until someone takes the trouble to track some hares remotely by digital means, the subjects of the jackrabbit's speed and the lengths of its leaps merely add up to another good story.

Now, as to the hare's legendary fecundity: The key to rabbit and hare reproduction is induced obulation, which means that the act of copulation itself stimulates ovulation. After a gestation period of about one month, each female produces a litter, called a kindle, of an average of four little leverets, which are weaned within a month. Meanwhile, their mother becomes estrus, ready to conceive again, thus producing an average of four litters per year. Each leveret reaches sexual maturity within somewhat less than a year after birth, and itself continues reproducing for perhaps eight years. Nature's necessity for such fecundity is simply the survival of the species: Within their first year of those defenseless levrets' lives the mortality rate is 90% or more. In Europe, the hares' efficient reproductive habits, as well as their soft, delicious, high-protein flesh, made them popular as food beginning as far back as the Middle Ages, when they were bred for butchering, like chickens, in walled enclosures called "leporaria."15

The Company They Kept

"O! the blood more stirs,
To rouse a lion, than to start a hare."

Hotspur's aphorism notwithstanding, in 18th-century England, when royal stags were declining in numbers, hares became the best alternative prey in sport hunting. The reason why may be found in Owen's Dictionary, published in 1754 :

The hare is a beast of venery, or of the forest, but peculiarly so termed in the second year of her age. There are reckoned four sorts of them, from the place of their abode: some live in the mountains, some in the fields, some in marshes, and some wander about every where. The mountain-hares are the swiftest, the field-hares are not so nimble, and those of the marshes are the slowest; but the wandering hares are the most dangerous to follow, for they are cunning in the ways and mazes of the fields, and knowing the nearest ways, run up the hills and rocks, to the confusion of the dogs,16 and the discouragement of the hunters.17

Venery is really two old words that are spelled and pronounced —the first syllable rhymes with men—the same way, but have two distinct meanings that grew from different etymological roots. One came from the Latin venus, meaning love or desire. Patrick Gass–or perhaps his editor, David McKeehan–used that one once in writing of the Chinook Indians on March 21, 1806, at Fort Clatsop: "The women are much inclined to venery, and like those on the Missouri [River] are sold to prostitution at an easy rate." In his first dictionary (1806) the great American lexicographer Noah Webster (1758-1843) euphemistically defined this kind of venery as "the pleasure of the bed." The other blood-line of the homonym came from a similarly long-gone Latin word, venari–meaning to hunt. None of the expedition's journalists used venery that way, preferring the common synonym of it, "the chase," mainly during the Rocky Mountain phase of their journey when their hunters were mounted on horseback.

The sport-hunting of "beasts of venery" was popular among American Colonists' small fellowships of landed gentlemen, and remained so until after the Revolution. George Washington was reportedly fond of the sport, and it may well be that the gentlemen of Lewis's circle in Albemarle County, Virginia, were similarly active in the formalized pursuit of deer, wild boars, foxes, and hares. The old word has been archaic for more than a century now, but the hare is still a "beast of venery" inasmuch as it remains an object of recreational hunting in nearly every state in the U.S. It is still considered good eating, too, although it is not consumed in numbers as great as during the 18th and 19th centuries—100 to 150 dozen per day in San Francisco, in 1894-95. In the Midwest and Southwest, where the closely related and more numerous black-tailed jackrabbit is found, 19th-century farmers often got together to organize "rabbit drives" to reduce damage to their crops. Unfortunately, the jackrabbit's natural inclination to re-populate the available habitat made such efforts futile in the long run.

"You are the hare of whom the proverb goes,
Whose valour plucks dead lions by the beard."

Fabulous Stories

Consider the Lewis and Clark Expedition's prize discoveries—the grizzly, bison, wolf, bighorn sheep, coyote, and antelope. All were notable for their ferocity, size, speed, grace, voraciousness, or sagacity as the case may be. By the standards implicit in that august company, the jackrabbit seems boring. Nevertheless, the hare owns a number of attributes that have enabled it to entertain countless generations of young and old with a light-hearted literature of short tales. With his reference to the hare's instinctual flight from either real or perceived dangers, the Bastard, a witty critic in Shakespeare's little-known play, King John, deftly skewers the monarch's boastful pretensions to bravery with a phrase equal to a later cliché—"timid as a hare."

Contests between unequal participants, often pitting an anthropomorphic hare against an ordinary bully, are found in the moralistic literature of virtually every race and culture. The 20th-century model of the happily innocent hero-hare is the world-renowned cartoon character, Bugs Bunny. Born in a short animated film in 1938 and weaned by Warner Bros. in 1940, his alliterative binomial and his famous greeting, "Eh, what's up, doc?" distract us from his long ears, big feet and blazing speed, which obviously belong to a jackrabbit. Bugs, "cunning in the ways and mazes of the fields," has made a career of outwitting the "poor little Nimrod," Elmer Fudd.

One of the oldest tales in the literature is the one that has been attributed to Aesop, the purely fictitious author-storyteller who reputedly lived as early as the 6th century BC. Aesop's Fables first appeared in print, in Latin verse, during the first century AD, and in English prose in 1484.18 Those simple stories, ostensibly aimed toward the inculcation of moral values in children, were brief and seemingly improbable anecdotes in which animals represented contrasting facets of human nature, interacting in ways that dramatized principles to live by.

One of the most familiar examples of the genre in Euro-American culture today is "The Tortoise and the Hare," which in general goes something like this:

Proud, confident Hare boasted he had never been beaten in a race. Slow but patient Tortoise regarded the Hare's boast as a challenge, and thoughtfully accepted it. Hare scoffed at Tortoise's ridiculous decision and, in full confidence of his athletic prowess, laid down to take a nap, while Tortoise immediately set out on the race-course. Hare awoke not knowing where Tortoise was, but confident in his own superlative speed, reached the finish line in a flash, only to find Tortoise already there. The obvious moral is, "Overconfident idleness wastes superior potential, while patient persistence wins the race."

The animated Silly Symphony, produced by Walt Disney in 1935, again dramatized the little story. It has been rumored that a new animation is due out soon.

Better Odds

A Harebrained Notion

March Hare: an illustration from Alic in Wonderland

John Tenniel (1865)

In Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, the March Hare and the Mad Hatter try to stuff the super-sized Dormouse into a teapot. Hare's hat, a light-hearted symbol of lunacy, is a swatch of cloth decorated with a few sprigs of hay. The expression "Mad as a March hare" is said to have first appeared in print in Thomas Heywood's Proverbs (1546). The seasonal syndrome has endured in countless variations since the dawn of man, and is certain to continue. Think Mardi Gras and March Madness. Think Spring Break.

To every genuine jackrabbit's chagrin, there is one species of the genus Lepus that is known to surpass even the vaunted speed of the white-tailed jackrabbit–the jackalope, Lepus temperamentalus. Some authorities consider it as merely an especially slippery variety of the fantastical deerbunny. As its name implies, the jackalope is a crossbreed between a jackrabbit and an antelope, with horns as long as its ears. The inference is obvious. The jackalope must be twice as fast on its feet as either of its parents, a sure bet in the daily doubles. There are numerous varieties, stuffed specimens of which may be surprised in nearly any lower-class watering-hole in the Western U.S.

It is even imagined to have been introduced into selected corners of European fancy.

In 2003 the fabulous jackalope starred in the Disney-Pixar cartoon The Incredibles. Aside from that, there are lots of jackalope photographs on the Web, but all of those are fakes. The main monument to the species is in Douglas, Wyoming, where the first specimen was observed–once upon a time.

The jackalope must not be confused with the antelope jackrabbit, Lepus alleni, or Allen's jackrabbit, which is a legitimate species native to the mesquite groves of south-central Arizona. No, really.

A Little Crazy!

There is still one more facet to the folklore surrounding this species. This one is summed up in the metaphor "mad as a March hare," once used colloquially to refer to a person whose nature was unnaturally excitable or unpredictable. When or where it originated is not known, but it emerged in print in the mid-16th century, and remained in the lexicon of English idioms for 300 years, until 1865, when it was elaborately ensconced in that immortal British cache of childish nonsense, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. In the chapter titled "Pig and Pepper," the Cheshire Cat responds to Alice's request for directions by offering her the option of visiting either a Hatter or a March Hare. Take your choice, suggests the Cat, "they're both mad." Since she had seen hatters before, Alice said to herself, "the March Hare will be much the most interesting and perhaps as this is May it won't be raving mad–at least not so mad as it was in March."

The words in this simile are somewhat at odds with the facts. Depending on certain environmental factors such as climate and habitat, the breeding season of the white-tailed jackrabbit lasts from February to July, peaking between early March and late June. Females taunt their suitors, who respond by chasing their intended mates in long zigzag races. They crouch and quiver. They leap over one another. They claw and kick-box. When they are finally reconciled through their natural impulses, bucks and does do little dances. Overall, their behavior may look bizarre, but they're not really raving mad–or at least no moreso than a lovesick two-legged hare may be.

1. Jackson, Letters, 1:171. Was Lewis's choice of words, "large Hare of America," prompted by his recollection of Jefferson's arguments with the French naturalist Count de Buffon, who held that the New World was geologically younger than the Old, and therefore its animals were smaller and less vigorous? John C. Greene, American Science in the Age of Jefferson (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1984), 30-31.

2. September 14, 1804, Moulton, Journals, 3:70. The mountain hare, Lepus timidus Linnaeus (1758), is native to the British Isles, especially the moorlands of Scotland and Ireland. It averages about the same size as L. Townsendii, similarly having a white tail, and ears tipped with black. The European hare, Lepus europaeus, also called the "brown hare," was introduced into the state of New York in 1893 from England. It also is nearly as large as L. townsendii. This species is said to have been the original "Easter Bunny." Legend has it that a Germanic goddess of spring created the first hare from a bird, which accounts for its ability to lay eggs.

3. Lewis published a prospectus for his intended three-volume work about the expedition shortly after his return in 1806. The third volume was to have been devoted "exclusively to scientific research, and principally to the natural history of those hitherto unknown regions." Jackson, Letters, 2:394-97.

4. In the so-called "Estimate of the Eastern Indians" that Clark compiled at Fort Mandan, one of the categories in his list was "The defferant kinds of Pelteres, Furs, Robes . . . which each [tribe] Could furnish for trade." He found that hare pelts could be provided by the Mandan, Arikara, Hidatsa, sioux, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Crow, and Assiniboin tribes, among others. Moulton, Journals, 3:402-04, 4115-17, 421-37. By the turn of the 20th century the value of the jackrabbit's fur as a commodity had begun to change: "Although the fur of the jack rabbit seems to be well enough suited for felting it is not much used at present, while the skin is too tender and the fur itself too brittle to make it of much value as fur. The Western Indians, however, have always held jack rabbit skins in high esteem for clothing. They twist the skin in narrow strips which are fastened together to make robes, the skins being twisted in such a way as to leave the fur on both sides making a warm durable robe of exceeding lightness." Witmer stone and William Everett Cram, American Animals: A Popular Guide to the Mammals of North America North of Mexico, with Intimate Biographies of the More Familiar Species (New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1902), 92.

5. History of the expedition under the command of Captains Lewis and Clarke, to the sources of the Missouri: thence across the Rocky Mountains and down the river Columbia to the Pacific Ocean; performed during the years 1804-5-6; by order of the government of the United States (Philadelphia: Bradford and Inskeep, 1814),178-79.

6. John Bachman, "Observations on the different species of Hares (genus Lepus) inhabiting the United States and Canada," Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Vol. 7, Part 2 (1837), 237. Bachman, a prominent Lutheran minister as well as a naturalist, considered the Book of Nature equal in authority to the Bible.

7. Ibid., "Additional Remarks on the Genus Lepus, with corrections of a former paper, and descriptions of other species of Quadrupeds found in North America," Ibid., Vol. 8, Part 1 (1839), 90-91. A type specimen is the collected instance or example upon which the official scientific classification, name, and description of a species are based.

8. Coincidentally, in eighteenth-century England a male rabbit was often called a "Jack Hare," Jack being a generic proper name for any man. "Jack" was often used in conjunction with the generic female noun Gill or Jill, as in the nursery rhyme, "Jack and Jill went up the hill," etc.

9. Timothy Harley, Moon Lore (Rutland, Vermont: C. E. Tuttle, 1970), 60-68. Kathleen Cain, Luna: Myth & Mystery (Boulder, Colorado: Johnson Books, 1991), 38-42; John Clare, The Midsummer Cushion, ed. R.K.R. Thornton & Anne Tibble (Manchester, England: Carcanet Press, 1990), 418.

10. John P. Dunn, Joseph A. Chapman, and Rex E. Marsh, "Jackrabbits," in Joseph Chapman and George Feldhamer, eds., Wild Mammals of North America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982), 124-45.

11. The National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mammals, 2nd ed. (New York: Knopf, 1996), 401.

12. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., 17 vols. (Detroit: Gale, c. 2004), 12:427.

13. John James Audubon, Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, 3 vols.(New York: J.J. Audubon, 1846-54), 1:83.

14. David Macdonald, ed., The Encyclopedia of Mammals (New York: Facts on File, 1984), 724.

15. Hounds bred to chase hares were classed as harriers. Among the most popular breed of harriers was—and still is—the beagle. In a classic touch of irony, Peanuts' dog Snoopy annually masquerades as "the Easter Beagle," but is not known to have harried any hares.

16. A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences . . . . extracted from the best authors in all languages, 4 vols. in 8 (London: Printed for W. Owen, at Homer's Head, in Fleet-street, 1754-55). Thomas Jefferson recommended this 8-volume encyclopedia to Meriwether Lewis, who carried a set on the expedition. There are several clues in the journals to suggest the captains referred to it at least occasionally. The author is indebted to Doug Erickson, head of special collections and archivist for the Watzek Library, Lewis and Clark College, Portland, for continued assistance in the use of this resource. See also Stephen Dow Beckham, The Literature of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (Portland, Oregon: Lewis and Clark College, 2003), 27.

Funded in part by a grant from the National Park Service's Challenge-Cost Share Program

The Hare: Lewis's First Description

Meriwether Lewis, September 14, 1804:

the eye is large and prominent    the sight [pupil] is circular, deep sea green, and occupyes one third of the width of the eye    the remaining two thirds is a ring of a bright yellowish silver colour.    the years are placed at the upper part of the head and very near to each other, the years are very flexable, the anamall moves them with great ease and quickness and can contra[c]t them and foald them on his back or delate [dilate?] them at pleasure—    the front outer foald of the year is a redis brown, the inner foalds or those which ly together when the years are thrown back and wich occupy two thirds of the width of theyear is of a clear white colour except one inch at the time of the year which is black, the hinder foald is of a light grey    the sides as they approache the belley grow lighter becomeing gradually more white    the belly and brest are white with a shad of lead colour—    the furr is long and fine—    the tale is white round and blounty pointed    the furr on it is long and extreemly fine and soft    when it runs it carry's it's tale strait behind the direction of the body—    the body is much smaller and more length than the rabbit in proportion to it's height—    the teeth are like those of the hair or rabbit as is it's upper lip split—    it's food is grass or herbs—    it resorts the open plains, is extreemly fleet and never burrows ot takes shelter in the ground when pursued, I measured the leaps of one which I surprised in the plains on the 17th Inst. and found them 21 feet    the ground was a little decending    they appear to run with more ease and to bound with greater agility than any anamall I ever saw.    this anamal is usually single seldom associating in any considerable numbers.